VFRC Publications - Page 26

Bending The Spiral of Ecological Degradation Toward Agro-Ecological Resilience Fertilizer use in food crop production, though a major driver for yield increase in modern agriculture, has often involved only N, P and K. The VFRC envisions a significant opportunity in the addition of micronutrients to fertilizers for boosting yields from both poor and several richer soils with long-term sustainability implications. Because micronutrients can also improve plants’ uptake of macronutrients, their use enables reduced application of N, P and K fertilizers, mitigating greenhouse gases emissions and losses to water bodies. Increased amounts of micronutrients help plants to fight biotic and abiotic stresses, such as tolerating drought and resisting attacks by pests and pathogens. The resilience of the production system can be further enhanced by returning part of the increased biomass to the soil, improving soil health with increased capacity to hold water and nutrients beneficial for plant growth. Importantly, micronutrient-enhanced fertilizers could provide another route to improving human health. Many governments are already fortifying food items; this micronutrient initiative provides an additional and new approach that will not only revive yields and reduce costs for farmers, but it will also tackle hidden hunger that hampers human development in many countries across the world. Figure 12. Deficiencies of micronutrients are increasingly observed in areas of high intensity cropping in cereal, oilseed, pulse and vegetable crops. Micronutrients can be a mega-mover of the local and global food system. This “balanced fertilizer” approach would be an important step forward: limited fertilizer use in Africa has left vast amounts of arable land with a serious lack of nutrients.35 Farmers in India have been using N fertilizers for decades, and to a lesser extent P and K, but without replenishing the micronutrients that crops extract from the soil. Appropriate micronutrient-supplemented NPK fertilizer applications could help revive the flattening off of yields in India and several other countries (Figure 12).36 22